The not so pretty parts of moving aboad

by Krista Our family recently marked the end of our third month living in India. I recently wrote here about how the move and transition went really smoothly for us. What I didn't talk about were the hard parts. I never expected a perfect transition. Things haven't always been easy on us though, and we've had to deal with some challenges that I didn't expect. The biggest of all of them was how out of sorts the lils were, and for how long. I knew that there would be a period where they would not be their normal happy selves, and possibly downright cranky. I just didn't expect it would extend for a couple of months, long after they had overcome the jet lag, finally gotten our shipment with their "stuff", settled in to school, and figured out the lay of the land. It's gotten much better, but they still have days where they are lashing out way more than they ever did back in Ottawa.

A big part of their behavioural change is likely due to the new rules that they a living under. We went from a fairly carefree existence, to one that is filled with new rules. We tried really hard to ensure that we only made rules where it was strictly necessary, and tried to introduce them gradually and intermittently, but it turns out that there are a number of new rules that couldn't fit into that approach. Rules like don't play on the road, cars won't stop for you. Don't walk on the sidewalk without holding a parent's hand, as the motorcycles and mopeds frequently drive on the sidewalk and aren't watching for you. Don't drink the water from the tap, it isn't safe. Don't touch any dogs, they are all wild and some are mean. Don't touch any bugs, some of them are nasty and we don't know which... It's a lot for little people to take in, and some times they rebel and don't listen at all, which is stressful.

Food is also a source of concern for us, more than we anticipated. We expected that they would rebel against some of the new foods and flavours, and they have, more than we thought they would. We also knew that finding safe foods for Woo, who is allergic to nuts, was going to be difficult, as peanuts are a staple here in many snack foods, and in the preparation of many foods. We are told to peanut oil is not a stable in urban kitchens (it is used much more in rural areas), but we still have to ask any time we are getting food for Woo. Sadly, allergies are not that common here, and we need to ask and explain several times before we are confident that he will be safe. This has made Woo feel very stigmatized, and he doesn't want to ever eat foods that we haven't prepared for him, and doesn't want to go to restaurants or to other people's houses to eat. We try to do as much advance work on this as we can, but struggle with this frequently.

We have also found it difficult to go out as a couple, without the littles. When we left Ottawa, we left our support network behind, and that network included our babysitters, both family and teenagers for hire. We're slowly starting to build a network, but have only used a sitter once. Building trust comes slowly for all of us, and it has come at the expense of time out without the lils, something I feel we need more of.

We are all a little lonely at times, including Woo and Goose. I just assumed that they would make friends at school, and that the social interaction there would help fill in some of the gaps. It does, but their area long periods of time when they are not in school, when they need to have someone to play with, when we are not enough company for each other. Getting together with friends in from school is possible, but requires more coordination than it did back home, as we have to ensure that we have the driver and that sitting in traffic is not going to eat up all our play time. We need to find more friends in our neighborhood, and I wish I had put more effort into this from the start.

Their loneliness is probably linked to the fact that they really miss home, especially Woo. I am shocked at how much they still talk about their friends and involve them in their pretend play. Woo frequently talks of wanting to go back home and of the things that he is missing at home. I don't want to. Discourage their connection with Ottawa, but I need to also foster a sense that Bangalore is home. It is clear that it is not for Woo, despite our efforts.

Finally, I underestimated just how much we would be a "tourist attraction". We very much stand out where ever we go, and the lils especially attract a lot of attention. While this was neat for them the first couple of times it happened, the novelty has firmly worn off. We want to be sure that we give our lils an opportunity to experience many new things here in India, and this means that we are out and about, exploring and walking all over. Unfortunately it also means that they are touched, pinched, picked up, and photographed or videotaped a lot. They have become very uncomfortable with this, and having us protect them was not enough, they were getting to the point where they didn't want to leave home anymore. Through trial and error, we realized that giving them the power to say whether they wanted to be touched or photographed really made a difference. We now ask people to ask the lils directly. Goose and Woo get to decide if they want to pose, or anything else. Mostly they say no, but occasionally it is yes, and they have fun with it.

Fans Tourist attractions

Each day brings a new challenge, and a wealth of new experience.

Krista is married to Willy and mom to a 4 year old son, Woo, and 3 year old daughter, Goose. A capital family, they are currently living in Bangalore, India for a year.  You can find her at Life in the Hutch or on Twitter @kgraydonald

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Here's what you might have missed in January 2012

It's been a while since we've done a Monthly Roundup, but we're bringing it back in 2012! Here's what's been going on around here in the last month: January Craft Carnival The craft carnival by Alicia married two of kids' favourite things - reading and crafts. Go on over and see what everyone else did! Perhaps you'd like to use some Melissa and Doug art supplies for your next craft project.

Activities for Kids As we all know, there is so much to do with children in Ottawa. We started out by sticking close to home with a little YouTube time. The best part was all the videos everyone posted in the comments! When you're done flipping through a few YouTube channels, it's time to get up and MOVE. So, how about doing some gymnastics? Or perhaps you'd prefer to go skating? But if you're already a skater, ringette or soccer might be just thing thing for you! The Ottawa Public Library (sponsor) gave us a number of timely book suggestions - all about hockey.

Parenting Tips We've had some great advice, from the birth of a second child to Kindergarten registration and even when to register a child who's birthday falls close to the cut-off.

Cooking Making healthy snacks for children can be challenging so Ezmy shared a few of her ideas with us. Of course, special days come along every once in a while and they call for colourful cupcakes!

Child Safety We shared a great video from Tail-Wags Helmets about bicycle safety and the need for helmets.

Speaking of Videos - and other technology Lara shared her thoughts about taking video of your children and how much they enjoy watching themselves.  It's pretty easy to see the benefits of having video of your kids, but the question of when to get cell phones is not nearly as straightforward.

Moving Abroad We've started a special series - written by contributor, Krista - about her family's adventures living in India where they moved last fall. Don't miss out on these posts - her pictures are stunning and gorgeous!

Kids in the Capital Finally, in this month's KIC Gives Back post, I shared about One Laptop Per Child. We got a response from the organization and they made sure we knew about their Canadian operations. This is a great program - if you missed it the first time, you can read all about OLPC here.

We did a lot of calling on contributors this month - for pictures and posts. Before you know it, we'll start to see the snow melt and the green will come back and we'll need more pictures to update our new banner - did you get a chance to see it yet? Here it is:

Keep coming back in February as we add new contributors and share more about what's going on in Ottawa as well as adding enhancements to the site to serve you even better!

Moving abroad

by Krista Our family recently marked the end of our third month living in India. It has been quite the journey for us, especially for our little people. It continues to be an adventure, that both rewards and challenges our family on an ongoing basis. While it is in many ways just as we expected, there have also been a number of curves thrown our way. This move has certainly presented a number of instances where I have been extremely proud of my children and how well they have adapted, along with a few unanticipated parenting challenges.

We are really lucky, in that Woo, age four, and Goose, age three, never really balked at the idea of moving do far away from home. From the start, we made it seem like a great adventure to them. We made them feel like they were a part of the process by giving them "options" about what flights that we would take to get here, having them "help" us decide how long we were to live here, and where we might visit while we were on the other side of the world. They took to the idea of India when they felt that they were involved in the process. It helped to make the actual lead-up to, and the flights here pretty painless.

This involvement carried through packing for both the shipment and the airplane. They were each given some containers that they were allowed to pack on their own. I didn't try to help, nor did I vet what they put in them. Sure, some crazy stuff landed in there, like cloth books they haven't touched in years, or random drawings made on scrap paper, but it was deemed important for them to have, so it all came. Some things made me shake my head, like Woo's ice hockey shin pads. I was certain they would never get used, and almost broke my rule and suggest that he take them out. I would have been wrong, as he uses them often playing road hockey when he is the goalie (yes we all brought hockey sticks. We are Canadian, after all)!

They took really well to their new house, their rooms and their school, better than we anticipated. It helps that we were able to show them pictures of the places before we arrived, and that we have found ways to make the new places unique. Their rooms here have a small shared playroom between them, where they can meet in the morning and play if they want. There is even a patio that they are allowed to go on, WITHOUT ASKING. We don't have any regular old Canadian trees in our back yard, we have a PAPAYA tree. It doesn't matter that none of us like papaya, there is a tree in our yard, so it is COOL. The new school is big and there are lots of new people there, but there is a SWIMMING POOL. We have become the masters at selling it to the lils, and this has helped us greatly.

Monkey faces! My monkeys, making monkey faces. Excited for the first day of school

They are now extremely good travellers. We have endured several long flights and many long drives (more than I anticipated). It is fairly slow going getting anywhere in Bangalore, or travelling by car to other cities. Driving, even on the highways, is very slow and there is much construction to cause snarls and slow you down even further. Woo and Goose have taken this all in stride. Even the car trips that are ten hours long!

Adapting to the new and wonderful creatures we meet has also been a pleasant surprise. They had no qualms about having geckos living in their rooms, aren't scared of the bugs that are the size of Goose's fist, and report a cobra sighting with a nonchalence that would be inspiring if it wasn't a wee bit bothersome. Both leapt at the chance to touch an elephant when it was offered, even though it was huge. They are also so enamoured with the monkeys that roam freely in the hills near our house that they want one as a pet. I was worried that some of these creatures would bother them, but presented them all (except the cobra) as new and interesting, and they were.

We are very proud of how well they have handled all the change they have faced and the culture-shock that comes with moving from a multi-cultural society where you are part of the visible majority to one where you are in the very small minority. They have been curious but respectful, and very eager to learn about all aspects of Indian culture and the children of other ethnicities that they meet at school. Language and accent have been the biggest barriers for them, but they have been able to catch on very quickly, and are now learning words in Hindi, Spanish, French, German, and Afrikaans!

Holding hands Exploring at the zoo

What has gone well for us has gone really well, thankfully. We have experienced a number of rough patches too, and my next post will talk about those.

Krista is married to Willy and mom to a 4 year old son, Woo, and 3 year old daughter, Goose. A capital family, they are currently living in Bangalore, India for a year.  You can find her at Life in the Hutch or on Twitter @kgraydonald

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